Rapid Reaction: Cleveland Browns

CLEVELAND -- A few thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 23-7 loss to the Houston Texans at FirstEnergy Stadium:

What it means: The Browns followed a big win with a bad loss for the second time this season. The easy explanation is to say the Browns started getting full of themselves and reading their press praisings, but the more realistic explanation would be that this is an improved team that still has a ways to go. This game was controlled and dominated by the Houston offensive and defensive lines. Houston ran the ball well (213 yards), and J.J. Watt dominated from the defensive side. Feeling good about yourself is secondary to not being able to block or get off blocks.

Stock watch: The craziness of the NFL never was more evident than with the Browns and the team they played last weekend, the Bengals. The Browns looked good in beating Cincinnati last week and followed with a clunker against Houston. The Bengals looked awful in losing to the Browns and beat New Orleans. The lesson? The Browns are 6-4 and still in the midst of the AFC North race. The final six games will be a grind, with no certainty either way. The Browns just have to keep working.

On the ground: It was clearly slated to be Isaiah Crowell’s day, as the Browns brought him out of mothballs and gave him plenty of playing time. He ran well, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, but his fumble late in the second quarter highlighted a concern: Crowell puts the ball on the ground. He has two fumbles this season, and he’s dropped two pitch-outs. The fumble led to Houston’s second touchdown and changed the tone of the game. The Browns did not give up on Crowell, but there comes a point when a team can’t trust a back if he doesn’t hold onto the ball.

Injury report: The Browns lost two key defenders during the game. Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, who had missed just four of 641 plays heading into the game, exited in the first half with a left knee injury and did not return. In the second half, Jabaal Sheard left with an ankle injury. The Browns started the game without defensive lineman Phil Taylor, who was placed on injured reserve Friday.

Love tap: Watt was twice flagged for roughing the kicker on Spencer Lanning punts. The Browns turned the second penalty into a touchdown. As he left the field after the second penalty, Lanning patted Watt on the head.

Game ball: He didn't play a down and wasn't at the game, but he will be welcomed back with open arms Monday. Receiver Josh Gordon could provide the offense the lift it needs after a bad game when he rejoins the team after a 10-game suspension. The fact that Gordon didn't play a down Sunday is pretty insignificant. Nobody on the Browns played many good downs during the game.

What’s next: The Browns go on the road to face Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons next week.